Want to create more impact with your advanced in vitro model? Spin it out!
Science is in transition, moving from a focus on fundamental research towards research that is more applied, aimed at innovation. Scientists are pushed to strive for valorization of their research; societal and/or economic impact has become a key success criterion for researchers in addition to academic impact. We will have to adapt if we want to be successful.
“It’s not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change” - Charles Darwin
At U-AIM, our mission is to advance the development of innovative in vitro models. At the various academic institutes and institutions on Utrecht Science Park, many excellent minds think of and develop innovative models, which are often based on organoids, 3D Bioprinting, or organ-on-chip. Such technologies are potential game-changers for safety and efficacy testing of drug candidates or as predictive diagnostic test in a clinical setting, as a superior alternative for animal testing. However, the academic development process stops at a phase where a concept is not yet suitable for industrial or clinical applications but only sufficiently fleshed out to be publishable; i.e. an early concept. When we want these models to be used for testing of pharmaceuticals, chemicals and food components e.g. for registration purposes (and we do), they need to be developed a lot further. They should be validated thoroughly, we need to know all about their sensitivity, specificity and reproducibility. Academia is not set up for the very thorough method development that is required to achieve this; company R&D labs are, but they are reluctant to explore very uncertain concepts that might (or might not) lead to innovation, which is where academia excels.
So how do we intend to move forward towards that goal?
One of the main strategies we are pursuing, is to spin out the most promising models and technology assets e.g. through a start-up company or a development contract with private industry. This opens the way to completely new funding opportunities, for instance specific funding for validation of the model for a certain purpose. Larger companies like to collaborate with start-ups led by entrepreneurial scientists, because they are fully focused on developing the technology further and they are expert on the specific distinguishing aspects of the model. This is where it becomes interesting for corporations; they are not interested in the technology itself, there needs to be an application that adds value to the company.
To be able to advise and assist our talented researchers on how to advance their models, the U-AIM Hub is supported by the Utrecht Science Park foundation in the person of Stephen G. Gray as our innovation manager. He has co-founded and advised several successful start-up companies, including Ourobotics which was amongst the first startup companies to “disrupt” (to make a real change) the Regenerative Medicine hardware market with affordable 3D Bioprinting machines with advanced A.I. robotic arms, & multi-biomaterial capabilities 1.
We currently have two exciting startups in the works within the U-AIM hub that we hope to have fully established by 2021. One startup is focused on novel organ-on-chip technology with an in-silico component. The second startup is working on multiple disruptive technologies targeting the organoid and 3D bioprinting markets. At the moment we are recruiting more entrepreneurs or researchers who have a passion for innovation and have the ability to work on future potential spin-out projects on a part-time basis.
Do you have an innovative in vitro model (for instance: Organ-on-Chip, Organoid, iPSC or a humanized cell line) or a novel technology related to such models (for instance: 3D Bioprinting, Machine Learning, Bioreactor or Microfluidics) and you’d like to create more impact with your innovation? You can access and benefit from our experience and knowledge by simply contacting us. If you are a passionate researcher working on (aspects of) advanced in vitro methods and have entrepreneurial affinity, we’d love to help you to further develop your entrepreneurial skill sets and move your model or technology further.
More information on U-AIM and our activities can be found on our freshly updated website 2. We also recommend attending the Regenerative Medicine Utrecht webinar that will take place on the 13th of July 3.
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” — Barack Obama
Dr. Damiën van Berlo, Scientific Program Officer
Dr. Stephen G. Gray, Innovation Manager